The holidays are a very difficult time for those who are grieving. Whether a loved one has died, your parents recently got divorced, or you lost a job, grief comes in many forms and impacts us in different ways. How do we manage that during the holiday season?
Expect many emotions.
During the grieving process, you can expect emotions like anger, sadness, hope, guilt, and loneliness. The holiday season tends to bring up these emotions anyway, so when they are compounded by grief, remember that this is normal, that you are okay, and that these emotions will not last forever.
Focus on gratitude.
Thanksgiving and gratitude are very helpful and meaningful responses to the experience of grief. While we have lost something very dear and important – and the hard emotions honor the memory of what or who we have lost – there are still things in life that we can be thankful for. Make a list and add to it nightly. Read psalms of praise and thanksgiving. If you can’t think of things in your life that you are thankful for, think of those around you whom you love. You may be thankful for health, for a safe and warm home, for the smell of turkey cooking in the oven, or more.
When we care for others, this takes the focus off ourselves and our own hardship. We can serve others in small ways – refilling their cup at the dinner table before we refill our own – but the holiday season also offers many special opportunities to serve others. You may want to consider joining a homeless shelter to serve Thanksgiving dinner, doing the Angel Tree and buying presents for a family who cannot afford them, or even cleaning up the church after a Christmas concert cookie extravaganza.
Honor your memories.
The holidays tend to bring up a lot of memories, both good and bad. They can be a very nostalgic season for us. And if you are grieving, you may find yourself overwhelmed by powerful memories. Try to find a way to honor those memories. Share stories about your loved one with a friend. Make their favorite holiday beverage and reflect on a positive memory you had together. Write them a letter. If they are hard memories, write them down and pray over them; you may want to close by a symbolic burning of that written list in the fireplace.